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10 Amazing Artists and Designers Who’ve Captured Our Hearts

Last week, Eugene and I spoke at two conferences, Altitude Summit, a design and lifestyle blogging conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah and Dwell on Design, America's largest design event which took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Being that it was our first time in front of an audience, you could say, that it was quite the challenge. (Who isn't afraid of public speaking?) At Dwell, we presented Art and Design in the Digital Age. For those of you who couldn't make it, we wanted to provide the transcript of that speech, just in case you wanted to read it.

Dwell asked us to share with their audience ten innovators, in art and design, who have captured the hearts and minds of people from all around the world. You can find out who we picked, below.


Hi, I'm Alice Yoo, founder and editor in chief of My Modern Metropolis and this is Eugene Kim, partner and Chief Operating Officer. My Modern Met is an art culture blog that celebrates creative ideas in the visual arts – such as painting, sculpture, design, photography, and architecture. More than anything, however, we pride ourselves on being visual storytellers.

We're always on the lookout for cutting-edge art and stunning photography, however, our 4 millions visitors a month don't just come to our site to see striking visuals, they're there to be inspired. Most of our posts are grounded in real stories, stories that will inform you on the intricate detail behind a piece or what compelled an artist or designer to intensely execute on a project. We hope to not only inspire new generation of creatives, we aim to show the world how art can enhance one's life, either by giving us a greater appreciation for what we as humans are capable of, or by showing you how some have devoted their lives to designing a bigger, brighter future for this world.

There's never been a better time to be an artist or designer. In this day and age, the Internet has allowed the entire world to share information in a heartbeat. When that information is shared virally, artists and designers can be submitting their work one minute, and have it shared with millions of people around the world the next. This could not have even been possible a decade ago.

Today, we're here to present 10 artists and designers who have captured the hearts and minds of people around the world with their amazing art and ground-breaking design. Not only are these innovators breaking ground in their own field, they're inspiring a whole new generation of creatives to build upon their existing work to create something even greater.

1. Jee Young Lee

Jee Young Lee is a 30-year-old South Korean installation artist who for weeks and sometimes months, created stunningly surreal scenes inside her tiny 12 foot by 14 foot studio in Seoul.

Using everyday materials like plywood, paper cups, and straws, she creates these intricate scenes that appear otherworldly. Most interesting is that these are all self-portraits that put the artist right in the middle of the work. She assumes multiple roles – not only is she the set designer and installation artist, she's also the performer and the photographer. Remarkably, there is no Photoshop involved.

Lee's scenes are inspired by her own personal experiences, her dreams and old Korean fables. In this piece, called Treasure Hunt, It took Lee three months to create this magical nocturnal landscape. The grass is made of craft wire, and every single piece is connected to a mesh screen. The artist was inspired by childhood memories of holidays spent at her grandparents' farm, where after nightfall she would see fireflies light up: To her the fireflies looked like they were on a treasure hunt and she used that as a metaphor to show that “finding your ideal is as difficult as searching for a needle in a grassy field.” The scene is set at night to emphasize the difficulty of the task.

In addition to presenting cutting-edge art, My Modern Met has a passion for sharing clever, creative, and innovative design. Even though we do get a good laugh from silly creations, such as this table made for cats, we believe that design can be highly impactful, improving the lives of individuals at home or at work, or on a bigger scale, changing the world and our collective futures.

2. Massoud Hassani

Danish design student Massoud Hassani, who escaped war-torn Afghanistan when he was just 14, figured out a way to detonate the mines in his old hometown, where thousands of old Soviet landmines still lurk in the rugged terrain.

His invention, called the Mine Kafon Ball, rolls over mines at a much lower costs than traditional methods. The ball is constructed of three parts: the spherical core, 70 bamboo legs that stick out from it, and white round surfaces that act as feet. The device is light enough that a gentle breeze can keep it rolling along, like a giant tumbleweed. A GPS chip, that is installed, can be used to monitor and record the location of mines.

Although the ball explodes when it rolls over a mine, it's a much smaller sacrifice than a human life. The UN puts the Afghanistan mine count at 10 million, though Hassani insists there are “far, far more.”

After launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, Hassani surpassed his goal and raised over $200,000 to fund this project.

3. Gabriel Dawe

Gabriel Dawe is a Mexican artist who creates huge rainbow-colored sculptures using miles and miles of thread. His heritage influences his work. To him, textiles and embroidery are activities traditionally associated with Mexican culture.

His series, called Plexus, requires a great deal of patience. Armed with a giant needle that's attached to a long pole, Dawe hooks each strand of thread to a specific anchor point.

Conceptually, these works are about the human need for shelter. Fashion and architecture have many functions, but one thing they both share is that they protect us from the elements. Here, he takes the main material that clothing is made out of–thread–to create bright and beautiful architectural structures.

4. Jonas Dahlberg

On July 22, 2011, a sad day that many of you may still remember, an island in Norway made headlines when right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik opened fire at a youth camp, killing 69 people. Coupled with his first attack, a car bomb explosion in Oslo that killed eight people, a total of 77 lives were tragically lost in the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II. This act of terrorism created a shock wave felt throughout the world.

To commemorate the lives lost, an international competition was held to design official memorial sites. A committee received 300 submissions from creatives, including architects and artists from 46 countries.

The winner was Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg's design of a symbolic wound, or a cut within nature, which was unanimously chosen for being “artistically highly original and interesting.” It is called the Memory Wound. As the jury wrote, “The proposal is radical and brave, and evokes the tragic events in a physical and direct manner.”

The cut will be a three-and-a-half-meter wide excavation on a peninsula, that faces the island. The gap would make it impossible to reach the end of the headland. The names of the victims will be engraved onto a wall but visitors will not be able to touch them. This is meant to evoke “the sense of sudden loss combined with the long-term missing and remembrance of those who perished.”

The landmass, taken out of the rocky landscape, will be transplanted to another memorial site in Oslo where it will be used to create a temporary memorial pathway. The proposal also calls for trees to be taken from the island and moved to Oslo, to maintain the relationship between the two sites.

5. Matt Molloy

Canadian photographer Matt Molloy recently created a gorgeous series of sky images by stacking hundreds of photos into one. He calls them his Time Stack series. His work are often referred to as impressionist inspired.

It all began when one night Matt was making a star trail image, when he wondered why he'd never seen this technique used on daylight timelapses. While watching his own timelapse video, he soon started picking out his most interesting sections. Most of the sunset stacks are around 100 to 200 photos, but they can take up to 1000. All of the photos in his series were taken from the timelapses he's personally shot, which he's been doing for the last 3 years now.

6. Kunle Adeyemi

100,000 people live in a old fishing village in Makoko, Nigeria in homes built on stilts. The village is constantly battered by floods because of the heavy rains and high seas. The area has become so dangerous that the government has forcibly cleared parts of it. Like many homes, the primary school is vulnerable to the constant flooding.

Kunle Adeyemi, a Nigerian architect, had an idea. It would be an ambitious project – create a school that could adapt to the constantly changing environment. His solution was a school that floats on water.

The Makoko Floating School, made to serve 100 elementary school students, is now currently under construction. The unique, three-story architectural structure, built as a triangular prism, is intended to float on water with a base made of 256 plastic drums. It's built with locally sourced wood and solar panels will provide the electricity.

While this first generation of floating buildings was designed solely as an educational center, the project is opening a new chapter in architectural design that can be applied to a variety of facilities for poor communities just like Makoko.

7. Yayoi Kasuma

85-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama works in a wide variety of mediums, including painting, collage, and sculpture. Kasuma is known as a precursor of the pop art movement, and it's said she even influenced such contemporary artists like Andy Warhol. Currently, in Japan, she's been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of that country.

An interesting side note, since 1977, she has been living in a psychiatric hospital, where she voluntarily admitted herself. By choice, she has decided to spent the rest of her life there. In 2008 Christies New York sold a work by her for $5.1 million, then a record for a living female artist.

Last November, David Zwirner Gallery in New York, exhibited her Infinity Mirrored Room, The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. Visitors were each given 45 seconds to immersive themselves in a mirror-lined room, with a shallow pool of water as its floor, and where hundreds of multicolored LED lights were suspended at varying heights. The lights flickered on and off in a strobe-like effect, producing an intense illumination of the space and the repetitive pattern of reflections suggesting endlessness.

8. Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian + GE

The Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian recently installed a new CT scanner in their radiology testing room, but what separates the machine from others of its kind is that it is designed in the likeness of a pirate ship.

The children's hospital worked with GE to both design and install the scanner. The lively, colorful center, inspired by the high seas, is a natural fit for imaginative children who are more eager to play than go to a hospital for medical imaging. The design has already proven to be a hit with the children, and, interestingly, the older patients, ages 17 to 21, ask for the pirate scanner, too.

The scanner's design soothes the patients' nerves, decreasing the uneasiness that goes along with visits to a hospital and having medical testing done. In addition to its youthful and lighthearted appeal, the new scanner is safer by delivering a lower dose of radiation than the previous model.

9. Simon Beck

For the last five years, 55-year-old British artist Simon Beck has been creating spectacular patterns in the snow…by walking. Using his compass and measuring tape to plot his course, he works for up to 10 hours at a time, plodding through the snow in his snowshoes. Each final piece is typically the size of three soccer fields.

During the winter, high in the French Alps, somewhere between mountains, lodges and ski resorts, Simon Beck is creating these beautiful patterns in the snow. They often resemble geometric forms, and at times, can appear 3D. You can best see these humongous designs from higher elevations. Beck takes each of the photos of his works himself, either by boarding an aircraft, climbing up to a summit or riding a ski lift. Unfortunately, each of his incredible works only lasts until the next snowfall.

10. Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz

Located in the mountains of West Virginia, photographer Nick Olson and designer Lilah Horwitz have built their own enchanting retreat made out of discarded windows. The towering home away from home boasts a creative facade made of windows of varying sizes, giving it an artistic flair that is both rustic and modern.

More than anything, though, it is a representation of the couple's diligent and penny-pinching efforts. Salvaging most of their materials from a nearby abandoned barn, the creative duo was able to construct the incredible glass cabin with roughly $500 and several months worth of elbow grease.

Olson says, “We were able to make it a reality because we are first artists and creators. We had to be resourceful to do it cheaply.” For the couple, this meant living off of rice and beans while dedicating their time and energy to constructing their one-of-a-kind home.

Olson and Horwitz admittedly don't spend their time at the cabin year-round, however, they do enjoy an escape from time to time, amidst nature. Though the cabin doesn't include electricity or plumbing, it offers a refreshing “oneness” with the surrounding environment, heightening certain aspects of nature's beauty. Horwitz gets overwhelmed with joy from the wonderful light show created through their windows just as the sun is setting. “That's when everything inside is on fire,” she says.


Clever and creative designs like these are shaping how the the world will look like in the future. At My Modern Met, we showcase these brilliant minds with hope that the world will fall in love with their creations. We believe that a great idea, that is shared on the Internet, can kickstart a movement for positive change within days, if not hours.

Through a viral effect, groundbreaking art and innovative design can jump from one website to the next, not just from blog to blog but to online news sites and even television, giving artists and designers a quick reach of millions. On a global level, as a creator, you're now able to impact people from all around the world with your work. And, on a more personal level, not only do you get to connect with your audience, you get to inspire people, and hopefully change someone's life.

Thank you.

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